CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The Clarksburg Water Board has announced an $85.6 million upgrade following investigations and replacement of lead services over the last year.
The process began when lead screening tests in local schools showed elevated levels in about three students. The result was a review of 8,000 service connections and replacement of several lead services.
This project will replace all lead services (1,500) and replace 39 miles of waterline. Clarksburg Water Board member Paul Howe said about $55 million in work will be done to the main while $27 million is estimated to be spent on water services.
“That’s about two-thirds of our system and of that one-third that’s left a lot of that has been replaced in the last 20 years and maintained,” Howe said. “So, that’s really going to give us a jump on upgrading our system.”
The work will take over neighborhoods and require patience. Beginning in the fall of 2023, the work is expected to move from neighborhood to neighborhood and take two to four years to complete.
“These lines are not necessarily running down the middle of the street, but we have customers on both sides of the street,” Howe said. ” We have a certain threshold that if we’re going to replace enough lead lines on that street we’re going to tear out the entire system on that street and replace new.”
Howe said the Thrasher Group is preparing project plans and the work will divided into packages. It is the hope of water board members to give local contractor the opportunity to bid on and complete portions of the project.
“We’d love to have local contractors involved that live and work here in the larger area,” Howe said. “To get to know and partnerships down the road because sometimes we have things that we contract out and we would like to continue those relationships.”
The project will be funded with a no-interest loan for about 51 percent of the cost, 49 percent will be funded by a grant from Drinking Water Revolving Fund. Additionally, there is $6 in Congressional designated spending for the project and Howe said they are seeking other grant opportunities.
“On our average bill it will add $10.81 to our average bill. We’ll see it increase probably 5 to 7 percent in the first year and then a couple more increases every three to five year period.”
Howe said the last rate increase for Clarksburg Water Board customers was 12 years ago.
The lead investigation brought an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)emergency administrative order in July of last year. The order directed the Clarksburg Water Board to identify all homes and businesses with lead services, provide an alternative source of drinking water and filters to those with lead contamination.
Since that time, EPA officials in Philadelphia have been holding regular virtual meetings to quantify the problem and create a map to record all waterlines and their age. So far, only about seven percent of Clarksburg homes have reported actionable levels of lead contamination.
“I’m glad we’re working together and we’re able to get a lot of that regulation stuff behind us, but that is the driving factor behind this large project and we’re going to take advantage of it, Howe said. “We’ll really upgrade our system for our grandkids- it’s going to be another 100 years before they’re looking at something like this.”